Have you tried to bargain with a hotel for a lower room rate lately? If not, get ready for a Kafkaesque experience. It often goes like this:

"What's your rate?" you ask the reservations agent.

"When are you arriving?" she asks.

"When can I get the best rate?" you ask.

"I don't know," she replies. "The computer doesn't show that. Here's the best available rate for your dates."

Blame your frustration on revenue management, a system hotels use to get top dollar. This system involves manipulating rates and rules to squeeze the most profit from every room.

Knowing a little about it can save you a lot. Think of revenue management as supply-and-demand on steroids, with an assist from computers.

Under this system, you can find lower rates by reserving early and timing your stays to low-demand times. If you book late, forget it.

And don't expect to steal a deal during the year-end holidays at a popular Hawaiian resort or to score savings in a host city during the Super Bowl. Revenue management won't allow it.

Get the full story at the LA Times